Friday, March 14, 2014

what holds us back

And not that we needed one, here is a justification for reading poetry, from Brain Pickings:

"The way to develop good taste in literature is to read poetry. If you think that I am speaking out of professional partisanship, that I am trying to advance my own guild interests, you are badly mistaken. For, being the supreme form of human locution, poetry is not only the most concise, the most condensed way of conveying the human experience; it also offers the highest possible standards for any linguistic operation — especially one on paper. 
The more one reads poetry, the less tolerant one becomes of any sort of verbosity, be that in political or philosophical discourse, be that in history, social studies or the art of fiction. Good style in prose is always hostage to the precision, speed and laconic intensity of poetic diction. A child of epitaph and epigram, conceived indeed as a short cut to any conceivable subject matter, poetry to prose is a great disciplinarian. It teaches the latter not only the value of each word but also the mercurial mental patterns of the species, alternatives to linear composition, the knack of omitting the self-evident, emphasis on detail, the technique of anticlimax. Above all, poetry develops in prose that appetite for metaphysics that distinguishes a work of art from mere belles-lettres. It must be admitted, however, that in this particular regard, prose has proven to be a rather lazy pupil."

- Joseph Brodsky from On Grief and Reason: Essays

And then, a poem:



What etiquette holds us back
from more intimate speech,
especially now, at the end of the world?
Can’t we begin a conversation
here in the vestibule,
then gradually move it inside?
What holds us back
from saying things outright?
We’ve killed the earth.
Yet we speak of other things.
Our words should cauterize
all wounds to the truth.

- more about Chase Twichell here

And then this poem:


by Dana Gioia

So much of what we live goes on inside–
The diaries of grief, the tongue-tied aches
Of unacknowledged love are no less real
For having passed unsaid. What we conceal
Is always more than what we dare confide.
Think of the letters that we write our dead. 

These poems get at similar things, don't they? I've written about reticence before on Calm Things. And I suppose poetry is an ideal place to speak the unsayable. Poetry is 'intimate speech.' Poetry is a vestibule.

Which is why very often people use poetry to speak for them.

It's interesting to think about the etiquette that holds us back from saying things. And the why of reticence. And the why of poetry.

However. The clock has struck 7am and I am called away......

So. I leave you with photos today of the light in our sad bonsai.

And a few photographs of things our daughter has lately baked. Lemon meringue and peanut butter cookies.....


  1. Everything is excellent and inspiring here.... the coice of ideas, poems and especially
    the pictures... It is really insightful and inspirational.... I thank you very much for you
    creative effort... Keep the good work, and enjoy innocent life... Sadok

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful blog, it s a great kindness.

  3. Glad to see Chloe is still enjoying kitchen expressions. Thanks for showing them off.

  4. and i
    i who have just given up sugar.
    oh chloe.
    hang cholesterol.
    the light through the little bonsai... and the yummy goodness...
    needs no written poetry.
    a feast ladies!
    thank you!

  5. Thank you all for your lovely words, lovely comments. Means a lot xo S.


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